Category Archive 'Decline and Fall'
01 Sep 2018
Goths, Vandals, Huns, Isaurian mountaineers,
Made Roman by our Roman sacrament,
We can know little (as we care little)
Of the Metropolis: her candled churches,
Her white-gowned pederastic senators,
The cut-throat factions of her Hippodrome,
The eunuchs of her draped saloons.
Here is the frontier, here our camp and place—
Beans for the pot, fodder for horses, And Roman arms.
Enough. He who among us
At full gallop, the bowstring to his ear,
Lets drive his heavy arrows, to sink
Stinging through Persian corslets damascened,
Then follows with the lance—he has our love.
The Christ bade Holy Peter sheathe his sword,
Being outnumbered by the Temple guard.
And this was prudence, the cause not yet lost
While Peter might persuade the crowd to rescue.
Peter reneged, breaking his sacrament.
With us the penalty is death by stoning,
Not to be made a bishop.
In Peter’s Church there is no faith nor truth,
Nor justice anywhere in palace or court.
That we continue watchful on the rampart
Concerns no priest. A gaping silken dragon,
Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God.
We, not the City, are the Empire’s soul:
A rotten tree lives only in its rind.
— Robert Graves,
28 Mar 2018
Remember Kenneth Clark’s magisterial tour d’horizon of Western Art, the thirteen-part Civilization documentary television series that appeared on the BBC in 1969 and in America on PBS in 1970?
The New York Review of Books is reviewing the 2016 James Stourton biography, Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation, just being released now in the U.S.
Kenneth Clark is an interesting biographical subject, a talented and fortunate fellow who lived a rich and glamorous life devoted to the appreciation and explication of the Fine Arts. But I was even more struck by the reviewer’s, Richard Dorment, a former Art Critic for the British Telegraph, bald opening discussion of just how far contemporary academic fashion has left behind Kenneth Clark and the Civilization he so brilliantly described.
Once the most celebrated art historian in the world, Kenneth Clarkâ€™s star began to fade in the 1980s when a new generation of scholars rejected the object-based scholarship he epitomized and began to study works of art using Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytical theory. When Clark placed a painting or a building in its historical setting it was to understand more fully how and why it was made, and what it meant to those who first saw it.
Theory-based art history takes the opposite approach: broadly speaking, the scholar is interested in the work of art not as an end in itself but for what its making might tell us about the society that created it, particularly its attitudes toward subjects like race, gender, and social inequality. This kind of art history is taught in most universities on both sides of the Atlantic today. The scholarship Clark represented survives mainly in some museums and exhibition catalogs. Whereas his books were once required reading in undergraduate courses, many are now out of print. Civilization, the television show that introduced millions of people around the world to art history and lit the spark that led to the mass popularity museums and galleries enjoy today, is largely forgotten.
One shudders in horror to realize that it has come to this, that it is our fate to live in such a time, when the enemy of Civilization is not only within the gates, but occupying all the leading academic chairs and in control of all the leading museums, cultural institutions, and even the book reviews.
Kenneth Clark would shake his noble head in annoyance, then smile ruefully and say: “Oh well, after all, this, too, shall pass!”
13 Oct 2017
Bill Jacobson feels gloomy (with good reason) on the occasion of Legal Insurrection’s 9th Anniversary.
I donâ€™t know if there are any uncorrupted institutions left that matter. The education system, from public grade school through public and private higher ed, is gone. The frontal assault on free speech on campuses is the result. If you think this is just a Humanities and Social Sciences problem, stay tuned. In 3-5 years, if weâ€™re still here, weâ€™ll be writing about how the social justice warriors have corrupted the STEM fields. Itâ€™s happening now, itâ€™s just not in the headlines yet.
There is a rising tide of absolutism in ideas and enforcement of ideological uniformity that is palpable. I feel it in the air, even at Cornell which is far from the worst. Incredibly, the new Cornell President has charged a newly-formed task force to explore, among other things, â€œlegal mechanisms [which] are available to the university to prevent, address and counter situations in which protected expression on campus is harmful to those vulnerable to its effects.â€
Even language as a means of communication is corrupted, with terminology manipulated and coerced to achieve political ends. It started on campuses, and itâ€™s moved into the AP stylebook and the mainstream.
The press could stand as a bulwark against this slide, but it too is corrupted. The greatest threat to freedom of the press is not Donald Trumpâ€™s bloviating about FCC licenses (which has been a favorite threat traditionally of Democrats), but the mainstream press itself which has abdicated even the pretense of neutrality and joined #TheResistance.
The lack of respect for the vote is also what has alienated me from the so-called conservative movement. There now is a cottage industry of self-appointed guardians of conservatism whose main job is to delegitimize the vote, and to encourage a soft coup because they didnâ€™t get their way in the primaries.
The Republican Party? Hah. Donâ€™t get me started.
So Iâ€™m thinking through what it will mean to live without institutions.
Sorry to be a downer on our blog birthday. Iâ€™ve always tried to be honest with you, and honestly, this blog birthday Iâ€™m filled with dread, not good cheer.
It’s impossible not to agree. Just name an institution, from the Boy Scouts to Colleges and Universities, from the NFL to the Entertainment Industry, everywhere you look Progressivism has taken over, revolutionized, gutted, and destroyed.
28 Sep 2016
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.
In Claremont Review, Angelo M. Codevilla describes how “the malfeasance of our ruling class” has transformed America and brought us to the point of this year’s disgraceful presidential election.
in todayâ€™s America, those in power basically do what they please. Executive orders, phone calls, and the right judge mean a lot more than laws. They even trump state referenda. Over the past half-century, presidents have ruled not by enforcing laws but increasingly through agencies that write their own rules, interpret them, and punish unaccountablyâ€”the administrative state. As for the Supreme Court, the American people have seen it invent rights where there were noneâ€”e.g., abortionâ€”while trammeling ones that had been the republicâ€™s spine, such as the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. The Court taught Americans that the word â€œpublicâ€ can mean â€œprivateâ€ (Kelo v. City of New London), that â€œpenaltyâ€ can mean â€œtaxâ€ (King v. Burwell), and that holding an opinion contrary to its own can only be due to an â€œirrational animusâ€ (Obergefell v. Hodges).
What goes by the name â€œconstitutional lawâ€ has been eclipsing the U.S. Constitution for a long time. But when the 1964 Civil Rights Act substituted a wholly open-ended mandate to oppose â€œdiscriminationâ€ for any and all fundamental rights, it became the little law that ate the Constitution. Now, because the Act pretended that the commerce clause trumps the freedom of persons to associate or not with whomever they wish, and is being taken to mean that it trumps the free exercise of religion as well, bakers and photographers are forced to take part in homosexual weddings. A commission in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts reported that even a church may be forced to operate its bathrooms according to gender self-identification because it â€œcould be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.â€ California came very close to mandating that Catholic schools admit homosexual and transgender students or close down. The Justice Department is studying how to prosecute on-line transactions such as vacation home rental site Airbnb, Inc., that fall afoul of its evolving anti-discrimination standards. …
No one running for the GOP nomination discussed the greatest violation of popular governmentâ€™s normsâ€”never mind the Constitutionâ€”to have occurred in two hundred years, namely, the practice, agreed upon by mainstream Republicans and Democrats, of rolling all of the governmentâ€™s expenditures into a single bill. This eliminates elected officialsâ€™ responsibility for any of the governmentâ€™s actions, and reduces them either to approving all that the government does without reservation, or the allegedly revolutionary, disloyal act of â€œshutting down the government.â€ …
The ruling class having chosen raw power over law and persuasion, the American people reasonably concluded that raw power is the only way to counter it, and looked for candidates who would do that. Hence, even constitutional scholar Ted Cruz stopped talking about the constitutional implications of President Obamaâ€™s actions after polls told him that the public was more interested in what he would do to reverse them, niceties notwithstanding. Had Cruz become the main alternative to the Democratic Partyâ€™s dominion, the American people might have been presented with the option of reverting to the rule of law. But that did not happen. Both of the choices before us presuppose force, not law. …
In todayâ€™s America, a network of executive, judicial, bureaucratic, and social kinship channels bypasses the sovereignty of citizens. Our imperial regime, already in force, works on a simple principle: the president and the cronies who populate these channels may do whatever they like so long as the bureaucracy obeys and one third plus one of the Senate protects him from impeachment. If you are on the right side of that network, you can make up the rules as you go along, ignore or violate any number of laws, obfuscate or commit perjury about what you are doing (in the unlikely case they put you under oath), and be certain of your peersâ€™ support. These croniesâ€™ shared social and intellectual identity stems from the uniform education they have received in the universities. Because disdain for ordinary Americans is this ruling class’s chief feature, its members can be equally certain that all will join in celebrating each, and in demonizing their respective opponents.
And, because the ruling class blurs the distinction between public and private business, connection to that class has become the principal way of getting rich in America. Not so long ago, the way to make it here was to start a business that satisfied customersâ€™ needs better than before. Nowadays, more businesses die each year than are started. In this century, all net additions in employment have come from the countryâ€™s 1,500 largest corporations. Rent-seeking through influence on regulations is the path to wealth. In the professions, competitive exams were the key to entry and advancement not so long ago. Now, you have to make yourself acceptable to your superiors. More important, judicial decisions and administrative practice have divided Americans into â€œprotected classesâ€â€”possessed of special privileges and immunitiesâ€”and everybody else. Equality before the law and equality of opportunity are memories. Co-option is the path to power. Ever wonder why the quality of our leaders has been declining with each successive generation?
A must read.
05 Sep 2016
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire — Destruction, 1836, New York Historical Society
Richard Fernandez pessimistically compares the current governing styles of Russia and the United States.
Russia is pretty representative of many states which are simply collections of informal power groups. Whether these groups are called cartels, clans, sects or Communist parties, they may essentially be described as what James Madison called factions. He regarded them as both a danger to democracy and the natural forge of leadership and so spent a lot of time figuring out how to control them.
in the fall of 1787, when he was still in his mid-30s, [Madison] began collaborating with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write a series of 85 newspaper essays explaining the U.S. Constitution and urging the people of New York to adopt it. …
Given the talismanic power the word â€œdemocracyâ€ has to modern ears, it is worth reminding ourselves that the U.S. Constitution was largely an effort to curb or trammel democracy. Democracies, Madison wrote in Federalist 10, the most widely read and cited of the essays, â€œhave in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.â€ Why? A mot often attributed to Benjamin Franklin explains it in an image. â€œDemocracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.â€ …
The biggest threat to â€œpopularâ€ governments, he wrote in Federalist 10, are â€œfactions,â€ interest groups whose operations are â€œadverse to the rights of other citizensâ€ or the â€œpermanentâ€¦interests of the community.â€ Factions are thus not accidental. They areâ€”famous phraseâ€”â€œsown in the nature of man.â€ Why? Because freedom and the unequal distribution of talent inevitably yield an unequal distribution of property, the â€œmost common and durable source of faction.â€ …
Madisonâ€™s solution was the creation of a large republic in which a scheme of representation and a large variety of interests â€œmake it less probableâ€ that they will be able to â€œinvade the rights of other citizensâ€ successfully. … Madisonâ€™s central insight was that power had to be dispersed and decentralized if it was to serve liberty and control faction.
The paradox that Putin exemplifies is that while factions breed formidable conspirators, they also create poisonous leaders. They succeed in themselves but cause the society around them to fail. That is because they dispense a favoritism which is ultimately ruinous for the nation. The result is a self-vetoing enterprise. Marian Tupy observed that Chile began to succeed at the moment when its junta began to allow economic freedom while Venezuela started to fail by going the other way. But few ruling elites have the sense to get themselves out of the way. Usually they have to be shoved aside.
The question is whether Madison’s defenses failed and the factions are inside the wire. America for a long time beat the odds but recently things have taken a turn for the worse. It is no accident that many of America’s troubles have coincided with the growth of identity politics, special interest groups, foreign lobbying and corruption. If so they have spread their poison and created an American version of the “informal networks” that proved so fatal in other countries, as Madison feared.
Moreover, the American factional system operates in the worst possible way. The Clinton Foundation and private email scandal is a portrait of venality without competence. The peculiar characteristics of American factionalism have bred something singular; a phenomenon at once cunning yet stupid, both corrupt and inept. America is no longer exceptional, just another bum in the ring. Yet while Putin can often outwit Obama (and Hillary when she was in State), the Russian cannot seem to turn anything to lasting advantage. The outcome is a kind of impotence afflicting both sides.
2016 should have been an election charged with passion, but it is atmospherically deadening, as if many voters wished the candidates would just go away. If the 20th century was one in which people believed government could solve all the world’s problems, the 21st century is fast developing into one where government has become like the weather: chaotic, capricious and ultimately arbitrary — something everyone talks about but no one can do anything about.
Read the whole thing.
09 Jun 2016
Theodore Roosevelt Reading
Intellectual Takeout tells us that the LA Times recently asked The Donald what he was currently reading. Trump identified a book about Hillary, whose title he could not remember, which he was obviously reading for purposes of opposition research, and another book, whose author and title he couldn’t name, that he’s reading presumably in search of a role model.
I’m reading the Ed Klein book on Hillary Clinton,” Trump answered, without specifying which one â€” Klein has written two, “The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President” and â€œUnlikeable: The Problem with Hillary.â€
Trump then said that he’s reading a book about Richard Nixon, but was unable to recall the title or author, telling Wolff, â€˜[W]ell, I’ll get you the exact information on it.â€™â€
Politico asked Hillary the same question back in 2014, and Hillary had a perfectly-considered list all ready, one belle-lettres title establishing her intellectual cred, one PC title demonstrating her attention to diversity authors, and one best-seller thriller assuring the common people that she reads trash, too, just like them, as well:
â€˜The Goldfinchâ€™ by Donna Tartt; â€˜Mom & Me & Momâ€™ by Maya Angelou; and â€˜Missing Youâ€™ by Harlan Coben.â€
To see how far the American leadership class declined in a just over a century, compare the reading list Teddy Roosevelt shared with Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler in 1903:
The History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides
The Histories Herodotus
The Histories Polybius
Plutarchâ€™s Lives Plutarch
Oresteia Trilogy Aeschylus
Seven Against Thebes Aeschylus
The Bacchae Euripides
Early Age of Greece William Ridgeway
Alexander the Great Benjamin Ide Wheeler
History of Egypt, ChaldÃ¦a, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria Gaston Maspero
The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot Baron de Marbot
Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire Robert Nisbet Bain
Types of Naval Officers AT Mahan
Critical and Historical Essays Thomas Macaulay
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon
The Life of Prince Eugene Prince Eugene of Savoy
Life of Lieut.-Admiral De Ruyter G Grinnell-Milne
Life of Sobieski John Sobieski
Frederick the Great Thomas Carlyle
Abraham Lincoln: A History Hay and Nicolay
Speeches and Writings Abraham Lincoln
The Essays Francis Bacon
Twelfth Night Shakespeare
Henry IV Shakespeare
Henry the Fifth Shakespeare
Richard II Shakespeare
Paradise Lost John Milton
Poems Michael Drayton
Inferno Dante (prose translastion by Carlyle)
Beowulf (Samuel H. Church translation)
Heimskringla: Lives of the Norse Kings Snorri Sturluson
The Story of Burnt Njal (George Dasent translation)
Gisli the Outlaw (George Dasent translation)
Cuchulain of Muirthemne (Lady Gregory translation)
The Affected Young Ladies Moliere
The Barber of Seville Gioachino Rossini
The Kingis Quair James I of Scotland
Over the Teacups Oliver Wendell Holmes
Shakespeare and Voltaire Thomas Lounsbury
Sevastopol Sketches Leo Tolstoy
The Cossacks Leo Tolstoy
With Fire and Sword Henryk Sienkiewicz
Guy Mannering Sir Walter Scott
The Antiquary Sir Walter Scott
Rob Roy Sir Walter Scott
Waverly Sir Walter Scott
Quentin Durward Sir Walter Scott
Marmion Sir Walter Scott
The Lay of the Last Minstrel Sir Walter Scott
The Pilot James Fenimore Cooper
Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
The Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
The History of Pendennis William Makepeace Thackeray
The Newcomes William Makepeace Thackeray
The Adventures of Philip William Makepeace Thackeray
The White Company Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Charles Oâ€™Malley Charles Lever
Poems John Keats
Poems Robert Browning
Poems Edgar Allan Poe
Poems Lord Alfred Tennyson
Poems Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poems Rudyard Kipling
Poems Bliss Carman
Tales Edgard Allan Poe
Essays James Russell Lowell
Complete Stories Robert Louis Stevenson
British Ballads William Allingham
The Simple Life Charles Wagner
The Rose and the Ring William Makepeace Thackeray
Fairy Tales Hans Andersen
Grimmâ€™s Fairy Tales Grimm Bros
The Story of King Arthur Howard Pyle
Complete Tales of Uncle Remus Joel Chandler Harris
The Woman Who Toils Bessie Van Vorst
The Golden Age Kenneth Grahame
All on the Irish Shore Somerville & Ross
Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. Somerville & Ross
Asia and Europe Meredith Townsend
Youth: A Narrative Joseph Conrad
Works Artemus Ward
Stories of a Western Town Octave Thanet
My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War Ben Viljoen
Through the Subarctic Forest Warburton Pike
Cross Country with Horse and Hound Frank Sherman Peer
Ways of Nature John Burroughs
The Real Malay Frank Swettenham
Gallops David Gray
Napoleon Jackson Ruth Stuart
The Passing of Thomas Thomas Janvier
The Benefactress Elizabeth von Arnim
People of the Whirlpool Mabel Osgood Wright
Call of the Wild Jack London
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come John Fox
The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop Hamlin Garland
The Gentleman from Indiana Booth Tarkington
The Crisis Winston Churchill
John Ermine of the Yellowstone Frederic Remington
The Virginian Owen Wister
Red Men and White Owen Wister
Philosophy 4 Owen Wister
Lin McLean Owen Wister
The Blazed Trail Stewart Edward White
Conjurorâ€™s House Stewart Edward White
The Claim Jumpers Stewart Edward White
American Revolution George Otto Trevelyan
07 Jun 2016
NerÅ Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 15 December 37 AD â€“ 9 June 68 AD. Younger, but has a definite bit of resemblance to Trump in the shape of the head, doesn’t he?
Angelo Codevilla, Last February, analysed precisely the country’s situation and warned presciently about just where we are heading.
Obama has been our first emperor. A Donald Trump presidency, far from reversing the ruling classâ€™s unaccountable hold over American life, would seal it. Because Trump would act as our second emperor, he would render well-nigh impossible our return to republicanism.
Today, nearly all the rules under which we live are made, executed, and adjudicated by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and countless boards and commissions. Congress no longer passes real laws. Instead, it passes broad grants of authority, the substance of the presidentâ€™s bureaucracy decides in cooperation with interest groups.
Trumpâ€™s career and fortune have been as beneficiary in the process by which government grants privileges to some and inflicts burdens on others.
Nancy Pelosiâ€™s remark that we would know Obamacareâ€™s contents only after it passed was true, and applicable to nearly all modern legislation. The courts allow this, pretending that bureaucrats sitting with their chosen friends merely fill in details. Some details! Americans have learned that, as they say in DC, if you are not sitting at one of these tables of power, â€œyouâ€™re on the menu.â€
Trumpâ€™s claim to be an enemy of rule-by-inside-deal is counterintuitive. His career and fortune have been as participant and beneficiary in the process by which government grants privileges to some and inflicts burdens on others. Crony capitalism is the air he breathes, the only sea in which he swims, his second nature. His recipe for â€œfixingâ€ America, he tells us, is to appoint â€œthe best peopleâ€â€”he names some of his fellow crony capitalistsâ€”to exercise even more unaccountable power and to do so with â€œunbelievable speed.â€ He assures us that, this time, it will be to â€œmake America great again.â€ Peanutsâ€™ Lucy might reply: â€œThis time, for sure!â€
Deal-Making Expands Government
In recent years, Obama and the Democratic Party (with the Republican leadershipâ€™s constant collusion) have prevented Congress from voting to appropriate funds for individual programs and agencies. They have lumped all government functions into â€œcontinuing resolutionsâ€ or â€œomnibus bills.â€ This has moved the governmentâ€™s decision-making into back rooms, shielding elected officials from popular scrutiny, relieving them of the responsibility for supporting or opposing what the government does. This has enabled Obama to make whatever deals have pleased him and his Republican cronies.
This has moved the governmentâ€™s decision-making into back rooms, relieving elected officials of responsibility.
Trump touts his own capacity to make good deals. But good for whom? And who is to say what is good? Who or what causes would benefit from continuing government by secret deals? Who or what would lose? Trumpâ€™s stated objective is to wield whatever power might be necessary to accomplish whatever objectives upon which heâ€”in consultation with whomeverâ€”might choose from time to time. But the difference between Trump and Obama amounts only to whatever difference may exist between each emperorâ€™s set of cronies. …
Like Obama, Trump is not about persuading anybody. Both are about firing up their supporters to impose their will on their opponents while insulting them. Throughout history, this style of politics has been the indispensable ingredient for wrecking republics, the â€œfinal causeâ€ that transforms free citizens into the subjects of emperors.
Both are about firing up their supporters to impose their will on their opponents while insulting them.
This style of politics has grown, along with a ruling class that rejects the notion that no person may rule another without that personâ€™s consent. As I have shown at length elsewhere, America is now ruled by a uniformly educated class of persons that occupies the commanding heights of bureaucracy, of the judiciary, education, the media, and of large corporations, and that wields political power through the Democratic Party. Its control of access to prestige, power, privilege, and wealth exerts a gravitational pull that has made the Republican Partyâ€™s elites into its satellites.
This classâ€™s fatal feature is its belief that ordinary Americans are a lesser intellectual and social breed. Its increasing self-absorption, its growing contempt for whoever wonâ€™t bow to it, its dependence for votes on sectors of society whose grievances it stokes, have led it to break the most basic rule of republican life: deeming its opposition illegitimate. The ruling class insists on driving down the throats of its opponents the agendas of each its constituencies and on injuring persons who stand in the way. This has spawned a Newtonian reaction, a hunger, among what may be called the â€œcountry classâ€ for returning the favor with interest.
Ordinary Americans have endured being insulted by the ruling classâ€™s favorite epitaphsâ€”racist, sexist, etc., and, above all, stupid; they have had careers and reputations compromised by speaking the wrong word in front of the wrong person; endured dictates from the highest courts in the land that no means yes (King), that public means private (Kelo), that everyone is entitled to make up oneâ€™s meaning of life (Casey), but that whoever thinks marriage is exclusively between men and women is a bigot (Obergefell).
Trying to stop the cycle of political payback with another round of it, while not utterly impossible, is well-nigh beyond human capacity.
No wonder, then, that millions of Americans lose respect for a ruling class that disrespects them, that they identify with whomever promises some kind of turnabout against that class, and that they care less and less for the integrity of institutions that fail to protect them.
Trumpâ€™s voters expect precisely such turnabout. Within good measure, not only would this right any number of wrongs and restore some balance in our public life, it is also indispensable for impressing upon the ruling class and its constituents that they too have a stake in observing the limits and niceties that are explicit and implicit in our Constitution.
But not only do opposing sets of wrongs not make anything right. As I have argued (Sophocles did it a lot better), trying to stop the cycle of political payback with another round of it, while not utterly impossible, is well-nigh beyond human capacity.
Neither Obama nor Trump seem to know or care that cycles of reciprocal resentment, of insults and injuries paid back with ever more interest and ever less concern for consequences, are the natural fuel of revolutionsâ€”easy to start and soon impossible to stop.
Read the whole thing.
20 May 2016
At Ricochet, the King Prawn is simultaneously pessimistic and consolatory.
Even by the time of the formal creation of the governmental structure employed in this nation we had already started on a long downward slope, pulled inevitably through decline and toward destruction by the great weight of human nature. This trend should come as no surprise to conservatives because we have studied history. We know that from the pinnacle of our founding everything else would be downhill. At the close of the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin said:
In these Sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.
The cry for socialism and despotism has been long coming, but not unforeseen. The problem for Franklin wasnâ€™t that we had created an inadequate government but rather we would become an inadequate people. He was right. He looked to the past and saw what had gone before, then looking to the future he foretold what would be the fate of this nation.
While arguing in favor of our new form of government even its most ardent supporters feared the havoc which would be wreaked by those entrusted with power. As James Madison stated it in Federalist 51:
But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. [emphasis mine]
We could imagine the founders would be shocked if they saw the state of our nation and our people today, but I doubt they would find it so surprising that we proved them wholly correct. Government is a reflection of human nature, and the government we have (and are about to get) reflects perfectly the character of those who inhabit this nation and make up a majority of the votes cast. We elected a despot with his pen and his phone because weâ€™ve become incapable of electing any other kind of leader. In a few short months weâ€™ll elect another, only this time our choices are limited to an even more corrupt and criminal politician or a conman who promises to be an even more effective despot than the last. Neither candidate sees as the problem the concentration of power in one branch or one person. They believe the only flaw is the concentration of power in the wrong person.
I said in the beginning that conservatism acts as merely an anchor. Some may see the nation foundering on the rocks of human nature and believe that conservatism has failed. It has not. In any other time or place the crash would have come sooner, the destruction more violently, the catastrophe more severe. Weâ€™ve done the job well, and we will continue to do what we can until the whole thing comes apart, or until the chain breaks and we lie useless on the bottom as the nation sails unhindered across the seas of time to its inevitable end.
Read the whole thing.
14 Apr 2016
Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982. –Our time’s version of The Raft of the Medusa.
Dan Greenfield contrasts the barbarous, vigorous, and decadent stages of civilization in another of his superb must-read essays.
The decadent civilization has a million laws which it applies selectively. Its universal laws, inherited from a vigorous civilization, are buried between equivocation. Decadents don’t believe in objective truths and so they cannot have universal laws. Instead they mire them in so many legalisms as to be meaningless. The laws must be interpreted by a specialized caste. Everyone is always in violation of some obscure law. Life depends on a lawless dispensation from the law. Justice is impossible. Corruption is mandatory. The only way for the decadent civilization to function is to bypass its own safeguards through corruption, black markets and lobbying. This is true in all things.
The crucial task of the law is interpretation that keeps everyone from constantly being punished. This task is accomplished by lawyers, lobbyists and the politicians who are constantly adding more laws to fix the interpretations in the old laws creating a complex mass of contradictory information.
This holds true in every other area of decadent life.
Read the whole thing.
Right now, a lot of people are eager to embrace the barbarian (Donald Trump) precisely because at an instinctive level they perceive him, with all his faults, representing an alternative to the decadence of our current elite culture, and they are ready to jump over the cliff to escape the latter.
19 Mar 2016
Gustave DorÃ©, A Traveller from New Zealand Contemplating the Ruins of London.
“[W]hen some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s” — Thomas Babbington Macauley.
Selwyn Duke explains that the presumably-disastrous next presidential election doesn’t really matter all that much. America (and the rest of the West) is doomed anyway.
Many people lament that â€œObama has destroyed America these last eight yearsâ€ or, alluding to same, will say â€œI donâ€™t recognize my country anymore.â€ This is much like viewing a woman who marries a greasy-haired, dope-smoking, heavily tattooed and pierced, unemployable reprobate and saying that her matrimonial decision destroyed her, when the real problem was that she was the kind of person who could make such a choice in the first place. Do you really think Obama isnâ€™t a symptom at least as much as a cause? Do you think the 2008 A.D. America that elected him would have been recognizable to 1950 Americans?
And even if the next president is an anomalous good result, he wonâ€™t even be a pause that refreshes, but will at best slow down the runaway train racing toward the precipice. This is because our main problems arenâ€™t illegal migration, trade deals or health care, as significant as those things are. Our problems are more fundamental.
Do you really want to save America? Okay, then completely transform the media, academia and entertainment so theyâ€™re not brainwashing citizens 24/7 with anti-American, anti-Christian, multiculturalist, socialist, feminist and a multitude of other lies. End legal immigration, which, via the importation of massive numbers of Third Worlders, is changing our country into a socialistic non-Western culture. Even more significantly, convince the 70-plus percent of Americans who are moral relativists to believe in Truth; these are people who, as the Barna Group research company put it, believe that what we call â€œtruth is always relative to the person and their situationâ€ and whose most common basis for moral decision-making is â€œdoing whatever feels rightâ€¦.â€
Read the whole thing.
02 Mar 2016
Christopher Taylor has pessimistic things to say about America’s politics. He thinks a nation with a culture like ours can only have the kind of national leadership we have.
Who wins what office makes no difference. Until the nation undergoes a tremendous shift at the basic, cultural level, elections will only pour more of the same on this country and every new election makes matters worse. And that cultural shift takes time, not elections.
We’re at a point in this nation where the Supreme Court has been stuffed with a near-majority of members for whom the constitution is simply a set of words they can use to lever in anything the latest progressive positions hold. When a court has even a few judges who are utterly disinterested in constitution, wisdom, reason, justice, or sanity, that court ceases to have any validity whatseover. It has been corrupted to the point of being useless.
Arguments we have to get the right sort of politician in this position or that for The Judges ignores the utter destruction of the constitution and nation that has already been wrought by a supposed judicially sensible majority. After the utter abortion that was the Kelo vs New London decision, the court followed up with several horrendously decided trash cases which demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with power no matter who they are or what they claim about law.
Will a supreme court justice picked by a corrupt, horrible hag like Hillary Clinton be much worse than even a lying bozo like Donald Trump? Yes. But the bad is not a question of ruining the nation, its a question of how fast and in what direction. Its going that way anyway, its just a matter of how swiftly. …
There’s a phrase some use to describe this attitude: “let it burn.” Some misunderstand this as a call to destroy the nation. But its not. Its a call to step back and give up the fight because its going down either way. For years now I’ve been telling everyone to focus locally, on family, neighbors, local politics. Your home, your area, your town. Because the federal government is a write-off. There is no fixing it through any elections.
That’s what Let It Burn means; not “revolution!!!” but rather “its already burning and the firefighters know it won’t be saved.” Let it Burn recognizes that its already on fire. We’re past the point of preventing it. We cannot save this Republic, until we get past the hard times ahead and begin the slow, painful process of rebuilding.
I’m sorry. I don’t like it either. but that doesn’t make it any less true. And recognizing this doesn’t make me a crazy old man. Just a sad one.
“Posterity–you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”
-John Quincy Adams
Sorry, John. We didn’t. We gave it a pretty good run for a while, but its over.
Hat tip to Bird Dog and Vanderleun.
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